Rituals (short fiction)



Floating above hospital bed

He knew they were talking to him, but he couldn’t make sense of the words. He only heard glimpses, snippets of conversations recalling years of shared memory, of regrets and now their final goodbyes.

His hearing was all but gone, having slowly faded along with the rest of his once youthful body.

He could no longer understand what they were saying, yet he still felt the sentiment behind their words. He could still feel their tears wetting the side of his face as his friends and family kissed his forehead.

He was grateful for the tradition, now at least. Decades ago, he had felt differently. Like most children, he had thought he would live forever, that he was special, that old age would never come and that death was just a fiction. He soon realised this folly of youth, learning with each passing that everybody’s journey ends at some point. Still, he had found little comfort from the ritual in the past. This final goodbye, ending with a kiss on the forehead, had felt as painful as the last full stop in a novel that he could never read again. It was insignificant, it was not enough.

Yet it had to be done, it was the tradition. So, when his parents, and theirs before them, laid as he lay now, he went through the motions. He stood in the line, he spoke the words and planted the kiss. His tears fell onto their cheeks.

They were now gone and the ritual did little and less to forestall his grief. Every time his lips left their foreheads a piece of him remained with them. With each passing, this hole grew. It felt like a part of him was gone, forever missing, lost within his memory of them.

But now he knew that the ritual was not for the living at all. The final kiss goodbye ushered in a feeling of peace. A warmth deep inside that provided something to cling to as everything else was shutting down. Something to guide him onwards.

Although his eyes had failed him weeks prior, he could now see once more. A radiance came before him, a golden pulse growing stronger with each kiss. It drew him in, and began to carry him.

There was no more thought. His fear was gone. Only love remained. He didn’t feel his last breath, nor his final heartbeat. Just the warmth on his forehead and the soft splashes on his cheeks.

Authors Note: When I sat down to write, this piece just came out of me. I wasn't in control of the creative process at all. It seemed to have a life of its own. 
I often analogize writing to a dam breaking. When the pressure builds up, it has to be released in one way or another. Writing is a way for me to express and overcome some of the abuse that I suffered during my childhood.

Support my fiction on Patreon

Check out my first fiction novel Upgrade - A Sci-fi/Dystopic Anthology
"Enter a dystopic future where integration with technology may cost us our humanity. A bleak prediction of a world where consumerism and technological advancement has been taken to the extreme ..."

Read another short story: Saying Goodbye  - How can you say goodbye to a child?
"It wasn’t her death that was upsetting to me. It was the dying. I was glad when it was over. For her sake, and my own ..."